This is a small collection of video pastas. If the embedded videos do not display for you, please click the links – they go to the individual video pages on YouTube.
I once found a small child’s toy sitting in the middle of a road. It was a doll, that of an infant only a few months old. The eyes were open, the lashes pronounced, and the pink paint which vaguely resembled human skin peeled from the plastic features of its face. I can’t say what drew me to it, but I found it odd that such a thing should be sitting upright, its dress dishevelled and dirtied, left behind only to be crushed by passing cars. A toy which at one time would have meant a great deal to a child.
Picking it up, its limbs dangled like a puppet without a master, held together loosely by thread sewn into a cotton body. It was then that I heard a rattle, something inside the doll. Quickly I realised that the noise was coming from the head, from behind the eyes, as something moved around tapping against the plastic which surrounded it.
I saw no one on the street, and so without thinking I tore the doll open, breaking the head off, ripping it from its cotton shoulders. Peering into the now decapitated head, I could see what had been making the noise. A tooth, human or otherwise, slipped into my hand from the open neck.
‘She used to be my friend’, a voice said.
Looking up, a young girl stood before me, pointing to the broken doll in my hand.
‘She won’t be happy with you now’, she said nervously.
‘And why is that?’, I asked.
‘Would you be happy if someone tore off your head?’
‘She’s just a doll’, I said, pushing the head and body together. ‘I can fix her for you if you’d like?’
‘No, I don’t like playing with her’.
The girl then walked past me, continuing down the street. Looking at the broken doll in my hands, the eyes vacant, I began to feel strangely nervous.
‘Why don’t you like her?’, I shouted.
In response, the child stopped and turned round to look at me from afar, before replying: ‘She steals things’. It was then that she smiled, revealing a toothless grin. ‘She’s your friend now’. And with that the little girl disappeared into a garden nearby.
Credit To – Michael Whitehouse
Hidden deep within the rural countryside of mainland China sits a rotting edifice of failed consumerism: the decrepit remnants of Disneyland China. Half of a Western-style castle, bits of girders and wires and planks jutting out of moldy particleboard like shattered bones from gangrenous skin, looms over a wide swath of flat swampland. Tourists and backpackers have happened upon it from time to time but the intense feeling of inhuman wrongness urged them to ignore the queer structures and fragments of civilization in favor of escape. Half-completed spires, collapsed trailers, rusted red metal, and the scent of rot drift out of the dense fog like a bizarre fairy tale mockery. Shadows and animals roam the location although everyone in the surrounding area knows that nothing living frequents the uneven cobblestone streets and half-constructed cottages. It is a city of ghosts.
The Disney bosses were hesitant to buy at first, shrewd as they were, but the price was too good to pass up and the area perfect for a sprawling theme park complete with exemptions from the ruling party members – palms greased as needed from nearly unlimited coffers. It was a perfect location they enthused, the area ripe for their corporate thievery and corrupt guile, why they could build a private airfield and corner the market entirely! Why they believed that thousands of Chinese would flock to the fake cobblestone streets and put down their hard earned pittance for a chance at Western capitalist nonsense was anyone’s guess. But then again those were simpler times when the bottom line mattered more than how you managed to get there…
Deals were made, contracts were signed, and massive amounts of money began pouring into the project. A veritable town grew up in a wide circle around the construction area. Administrative offices were built for comfort, worker lodgings were built for utility, and the land was readied for the great transformation from rice paddy to imaginationland. All supplies were kept under lock and key, guards roamed the perimeter of a tall chain-link fence, and workers were subject to random identification checks to ensure Disney didn’t spent a single penny more than expected.
The first death was a cement worker; he fell into a mixing vat and was chopped to pieces by the stirring blades. The accident, if you could call it that, occurred late in the day and it wasn’t until they began pouring the next morning that his grisly fate was discovered. Disneyland executives were cleared of any wrongdoing after a smear campaign discrediting the man as a ‘worthless drunk’. So they poured the bloody cement in the base of the Magic Kingdom and hoped to forget.
Next, four electricians were killed when a transformer blew in an enclosed room. ‘Poor standards and lack of safety measures’ the press release went but already there were whispers and shivers among the workers. They were from the urban outskirts, businesses contracted because they were cheap and didn’t care that Disney was willing to overlook their safety. And why should they cause a fuss? They were each getting paid more for the year of construction than most of their families made in ten.
The small hamlets around the construction area remained tightly closed. Shuttered against the invaders they shared nothing, no food, no water, no supplies. Everything needed to be shipped in from afar. However, local tales of ghostly vapor and vengeful soldiers dragging unfortunates down to the underworld filtered their way into the ears of the workers and day laborers. The area was known for war – too much blood had been spilled on the land for anything more than horror to grow. The workmen grew restless, they refused to work, but that mattered little to the oncoming steamroller of corporate greed. They were fired, their contracts broken, and others either poorer or stupider were brought in to replace the suddenly hemorrhaging construction force.
And so it continued apace but certainly not as quickly as expected. Forty-seven more deaths followed, all accidents caused by personal negligence or carelessness, but there was only so far Disneyland executives could hold that lie….
The Magic Kingdom, half completed, became the focal point of the project – for in the eyes of greedy investors and embezzlers and the like if they could only raise that symbol the project would fall into place. Work was doubled, the timetable shortened, and more deaths followed. The areas around the forsaken theme park refused to serve workers, refused to sell food, refused the cheap comforts of the flesh such projects inevitably spawn in the loins of rough men and uneducated laborers. For stupid they were to continue working when everything in their bones cried out the wrongness and terror of their work.
Workers were killed, their mutilated bodies (bereft of head, limbs, and genitals) discovered cast into the boggy marshland at the borders of the construction site. Later, pieces of them were discovered in all manner of locations throughout the theme park. A head was found inside a generator, hands were plucked from painting buckets, and ten penises were skewered atop the flagpole in the center of the Village Square. Workers stopped arriving, construction firms pulled out, and everything seemed doomed for the project…
Until Disneyland executive Steven Oroko flew in to personally put the project to rights. Word came two weeks before his arrival and the local planning commission dismissed all their current work in preparation for Oroko’s legendary iron-fisted approach. The death toll came to an end as workers were fired, the equipment was polished and oiled, and all was in readiness for a whirlwind of work that would finally see Disneyland rise tall in the Chinese countryside.
Outside the construction zone, to the west, lay a tiny collection of huts and simple buildings. Teng Kai Rui was an old man, a farmer, who had weathered the storms of war and famine. His ancestors lived in Beijing before hard times and debts conspired to oust them to the fringes of society. He lived far afield from the construction because he knew exactly what lay in the soft lands. Ghouls and ghosts stalked the lands; murdered people rose up and sought vengeance, broken lovers desperately searched for their lost partners in the foggy mists. He never went to the area, cautioned his entire family not to go, and steadfastly refused to listen to anyone hoping to make something of the loose assemblage of hate and horror where Disneyland China would stand. His great-great-great-great grandfather settled in the ‘Mogui Wan’ or ‘Devil Bowl’ where Disneyland seethed in the middle of open farmland and frequently told of the night he left Mogui Wan.
Teng Fa Lai was Kai Rui’s ancestor’s name and, like the Disneyland Committee, settled in Mogui Wan due to the cheap living and lack of competition (in those days). Also like Disney he was unaware of the danger he placed himself and his family in until it was almost too late. For three summers Fa Lai toiled until his harvest, although modest, became enough to feed his growing family. With two sons and another child on the way he could not justify leaving the area even if the land and air felt wrong. His wife refused to talk of it – Fa Lai believed she felt the same – but his sons had told stories of shadows and shapes moving in the mist since they settled. He dismissed them thinking it was agitation from being displaced but the longer they stayed the more frequent their observations came until even he began seeing dark forms skulking in the fog.
Fa Lai convinced himself it was just his imagination.
Then, one midsummer eve a mysterious knock was heard upon their door. The night was humid and still but the omnipresent mist curled around their hovel in a gauzy grip. The air smelled of putrefaction, like rotting water plants or clay, and drifted into the house through every crack in the walls and ceiling. The night was deathly silent. Fa Lai rose to the door and listened but could hear no one on the other side – no breathing, no movement. Relief pushed the tension from his body and he began to return to the dinner table when the knock came again. Instantly the hairs on the back of his neck rose and a prickling sensation leaked from his head all the way down to the soles of his feet.
Opening the door revealed an upright corpse, skin putrefying and pus oozing from open stab wounds down its front and legs. The head was almost completely severed under the chin and it dribbled crawling insects from the wound like a writhing beard. At first he thought it a sick joke, that someone propped the thing up in order to scare them away from his profitable farm, until the limp head swiveled in his direction with the sound of grinding glass.
“Leave this place.” It spoke without opening its fetid mouth. “Leave us this place for the living have no power here. Leave us and save yourself.”
Fa Lai shut the door and the family ran that very night. They settled with Fa Lai’s brother’s family in the homestead where so many years later Kai Rui would be born.
An omen, an orange with thirty-six seeds, and a lightning strike on the tree his father planted on the day he was born told Teng Kai that the time was right. He held no love for the government or for Disney but he would not see innocent people die. Kissing the remaining family he held dear goodbye he set out for the skeletal ghostly spire of The Magic Kingdom in the distance.
Oroko arrived and immediately began work. He began by bringing in outside construction firms and firing all local contractors. His reasoning was that you didn’t trust people you never worked with before. The local Committee told him nothing of the deaths or strange phenomena, no hint of the rumors or the mutilations; they simply smiled at him eager to start rolling in their profit margins. Day became night as it was wont to do and a deathly silence fell upon the site. Despite the frantic banging and drilling and sawing the darkness swallowed all sound – workmen left machinery running and stepped away to grab another bit or a tool only to become deaf to the sounds of their own industry once outside a foot. Two men left a table saw running and stepped away to lift new planks – they did not hear the machine running and unwisely decided they had turned it off – only to saw their own fingers as they lay the new wood down. An electrician working in the upper levels of the Magic Kingdom, after twenty minutes of dead silence, jumped from the rigging to the pink concrete below.
Fog began rolling in from the lower areas of the uneven terrain and people began seeing shadows dart to and fro between unfinished foundations and bare girders. Oroko was roused from his trailer outside the castle gate by thunderous blows against the walls and door. He rose from his late nap and opened his door. No one knows what was on the other side but pieces of him were all that were found the next morning. Fragments really, nothing of any substance, most of him was blasted and pureed against the walls of his trailer. Bits of skull and his ocular nerves were all that were recoverable.
Panic set in after Oroko’s agonized screams filled the air, the first pure sound heard since the final wrath of Mogui Wan began, and workers raced around the construction site looking for any way out.
There was no escape. By the time Teng Kai Rui arrived all 1206 members of the night crew were splashed against every surface in the incomplete park. The outlying farmland was literally dyed red and nothing grew there ever after. Kai Rui shuffled through the gate of the Magic Kingdom sick with revulsion and anger at the foolishness of men.
He sat upon a worn stone on the packed dirt path and looked towards the cresting sun. Could he have convinced the greedy white man to abandon the site? No, in truth he knew that he would never had been able to convince them. What power could an illiterate farmer wield against such base avarice? He turned back to the west and home but as he stood the rising sun seared over the edges of the mountains far in the distance. In that muddy illumination, in that murky period between darkness and light, a terrifying tableau manifested in the Devil Bowl.
All around him in the low plain were standing shadows. Solid black people disappearing in the rising sun but each one of thousands staring at him…into him. Rising with the drying dew a nightmarish image arose of twisted towers and blackened steel, sheets of human skin and rivers of infected blood, and everywhere multitudinous dark eyes. The quivering mirage of horrible agonies dimmed in the rising light and the shadows dispersed but Teng Kai Rui knew what he had seen.
A Kingdom of Suffering. Perhaps it was all meant to be, he mused, perhaps the evil wanted the Magic Kingdom built in contrast to its Empire of Agony. Perhaps the dead simply wanted an amusement park of their own…
And so it stands to this very day shrouded in mist and silence.
Credit To – ThePhantomLibrarian
I suppose I should start with the basics. My name is Taylor Sant, I’m English of Cameroonian descent, aged 32, and I’ve been mining helium for the Hummingbird Corporation since I left college 16 years ago. My work is pretty exciting on one level – lots of space travel, and the helium platforms are often in some truly epic locations: they’re always positioned just within orbit of the chosen gas giant, and there are usually some incredible views. That’s not to say they’re all great, mind you – I did my apprenticeship on a platform over Jupiter, and between the dull brown clouds and the frequent ion storms it was pretty shit.
The work itself you’ll probably find uninteresting, though. I’m a in maintenance – it’s my job to fix anything that breaks, basically. It can be dangerous, but with health and safety these days that’s rare. There were normally only ever one or two accidental deaths on mining platforms per year, and that’s across the entire of human space.
Anyway, now you know me, here’s the story of why I’ve given up helium mining – and space altogether, really. I never plan to leave Earth again. But anyway, here it is.
Here’s the story of just what happened over Benten.
I was pretty excited when I first heard that was where I was being transferred to. Benten had only been discovered two years previously, and Hummingbird had immediately bought the property rights for the northwest quadrant, and built three top-of-the-range platforms over it. That was great news: the latest model was a marvel of modern engineering, really – comfortable, safe, and it looked awesome – much better all-round than the floating hunks of junk I’d nearly spent half my life on. The planet had a nice name, too – Benten is a Japanese goddess of fortune. The names don’t normally mean much unless you’re superstitious – I spent six months over one called Tartarus, and it was totally fine – but you still sort of feel more optimistic about the ones named after nice things.
And actually, it was all pretty great. I’d been appointed Maintenance Chief, so I got a pay bump. The 24 other crewmembers were fine, the foreman, this big Sikh called Singh, was a real nice guy, the quarters were comfortable, and the view was incredible. I can still say without a doubt that the vista from the landing platform was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. The gases were a beautiful pearlescent white, and when one of the other new arrivals said something about how it must be what heaven looks like, I was inclined to agree. I took a photo to show to my wife. I’ve deleted it since.
The new platform was absolutely fantastic – I was used to ones that broke down twice a day, but here I was only needed once or twice a week for anything major. I spent the rest of my time relaxing – an unexpected luxury – or repairing more minor things. One of the main problems on other platforms was the lack of working appliances – the maintenance teams had to spend so much time fixing the platform itself they couldn’t handle every broken dishwasher or entertainment terminal. The first couple of weeks, I was only saddened by the knowledge I’d eventually be transferred away.
Then there was the first suicide.
I was relaxing in my quarters when the machinery all stopped. Immediately I was running for the control room, because there are only two scenarios where all the extractors are switched off – a fatality, or the thing I was more worried about: catastrophic system failure. If the latter had happened, the whole platform was going down with all hands. There would be no time for repairs, or escape. That had never happened before, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t.
This is why I must confess to being slightly relieved when Singh told me that a man had fallen. Apparently Haaning, one of the miners I’d never really spoken to, had been heading along the gantry toward Extractor 03 when he’d just… fallen off. This felt fishy – the gantries all have railings on both sides, and are pretty bloody wide anyway. It was hard to imagine exactly what Haaning could have been doing to go over the side… unless, of course, it was intentional.
Singh asked around, and apparently Haaning’s wife had left him quite recently. The men still seemed pretty surprised, though – he had a reputation as being pretty tough. Still, suicide seemed the most likely explanation.
There was an air of sadness about the place for a while after that, as you’d expect, but it didn’t last too long. There was one small incident that spooked me a little in the days following Haaning’s death. Me and Ken de Groot, this young Dutch lad on his apprenticeship, as I’d once been over Jupiter, were suspended in harnesses over the side of Extractor 02, unjamming a cooling fan. It’s quite scary going out on the harnesses the first few times – after all, you’re dangling over an unimaginably huge drop – so Ken was pretty nervous. No need to be, normally – it’s really safe when you’re somewhere calm, and you couldn’t get more tranquil than Benten. I was just finishing up, when suddenly there was this weird noise. It was like this huge, mournful wail – incredibly deep, and faintly chilling.
‘What was that?’ Ken whispered, before calming himself. ‘Just the machines or something. Sorry.’
‘No,’ I said, looking down. ‘It came from beneath us…’
Ken looked at me, and then looked down as well. Suddenly, the seas of mist didn’t seem so nice. We hurried the rest of the job, and quickly got out of there.
After getting over the initial creepiness, Ken was pretty excited by the noise, and told anyone he could about it.
Most told him he was being silly, and it was just machinery. A couple wondered aloud if there could be something down there. One reaction particularly surprised me, though. Me and Ken were fixing the coffee machine in one of the observation lounges, and we noticed a miner, Borach, had been standing at the window and looking out at the mist the entire time we’d been working. When we’d finished up we went over and joined him, and Ken mentioned we once heard something in the clouds. Borach turned to him.
‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘There’s something down there, man.’
‘What do you mean?’ I asked.
‘I can feel it sometimes. There’s something down there. I think I caught a glimpse of it once.’
‘What is it?’ Ken asked.
‘How should I know? But it’s there. Down there.’
A week later I was rebooting one of the control room computers – some idiot had managed to infect it with a virus while on a seedier corner of the internet late one night – when I noticed Singh and some of the other control staff gathering around the main console.
‘Who’s on station there?’ Singh was asking as I sauntered over.
‘Jonah,’ one of the other staff replied.
Singh jabbed the comm button. ‘Jonah? What’s going on down there? Jonah?’
‘What’s happening?’ I asked Prager, Singh’s right-hand man. He was a right twat, but a good friend of mine.
‘Core temperature’s rising on Extractor 01. Guy posted to the local coolant station isn’t responding.’
‘Who is it?’
‘Jonah something-or-other. I don’t know him too well.’
‘You want me to go take a look?’
‘…Yeah, someone ought to. Singh, Sant’s gonna go take a look.’
Singh gave a vague thumbs-up. ‘Shut everything off, see if Borach’s alright.’
‘Borach, that was it,’ said Prager. ‘Jonah Borach. Weird guy.’
I didn’t connect what was happening to the odd conversation Ken and I had had with Borach until after I’d hurried over and shut the extractor down, and saw the open door. The coolant control rooms are about the size of a crane cockpit, and dangle out over the edge of the platform. They’re designed with a door on either end, so that when the platform’s being constructed you can put the gantry leading to it on either side. This means that in most, one door leads onto the gantry – and the other leads to a 10,000 mile drop. It was the latter that was open.
Two suicides in such a short space of time was hugely unnerving – for obvious reasons – but at the same time rationally explainable. No-one knew much about Borach, so he could have been suffering depression. Maybe Haaning’s suicide just gave him the push he needed to take his own life. I’m sure I’d seen the idea of copycat suicide on a cop show or something, so that’s what I told myself. It was what Singh went for too, and the men accepted it. What other reason was there?
As a whole, the platform got over Borach’s death much quicker. He wasn’t as respected or liked as Haaning had been. Singh had given Prager, Doc Bargas (the platform physician), and myself the instruction to watch out for any odd behaviour.
I didn’t see any. That’s the weirdest thing. There was one particular event, a week or so after Borach’s death, that stuck in my mind. It was when I began to realise – to some degree – what was going on.
Me and some of the other maintenance guys had a game of poker in one of the lower observation decks. Me, Ken de Groot, Valya Proskurkin and Yunus Menderes – all men I’d gotten to know very well during my time there. They were good people, skilled technicians, nice enough guys. We were enjoying ourselves. We were happy.
And then Valya said: ‘You know, I saw something real weird when I was working on Extractor 01 the other day.’
‘Really?’ asked Ken. ‘What?’
‘I was in harness, doing the usual thing. Jammed fan, you know. And I fucking dropped my spanner – I hate it when that happens.’ We all nodded, sharing his feeling. It wasn’t just the irritation of having lost a tool. Whenever you dropped anything, you couldn’t help watching it fall. And that got you thinking about how high up you were. I’ll admit, I’ve had panic attacks over that in the past. Most men in my profession have. Anyway, Valya’s story:
‘Anyway, so I’m… so I’m watching it go down,’ he was saying. ‘And then…’ He breathed.
‘What, man?’ said Yunus. ‘Come on.’
‘Something moved. In the clouds. I saw something moving down there.’
Me and Ken looked at each other.
‘What was it?’ asked Yunus.
‘I don’t fucking know. But it looked pretty big. Moved like it was alive. You think something could live down there?’
‘I guess something could. But you’d think they’d have picked it up when they were surveying the planet.’
‘Yeah, you’d think. Maybe it was nothing.’
Neither me or Ken mentioned that Borach claimed to have seen something too. I can’t speak for Ken, but personally I just didn’t want to spook Valya. He seemed to think it was exciting, more than anything else. I am certain he was not thinking of killing himself any time soon.
And yet, the very next morning, he went out and – in full view of the control room – threw himself over the side.
‘So no-one has any bloody ideas?’ Singh shouted, pacing up and down in front of the platform’s remaining crew. He seemed angry, but I think he was scared. I was.
‘He didn’t seem depressed,’ I said. ‘He seemed the same as ever. I played poker with him last night.’
‘Yeah,’ agreed Yunus. ‘He even… I mean, when we were going back to our quarters, he mentioned something about how he couldn’t wait to get home. Why would he say that if he was going to… you know?’
Ken tapped my shoulder. He was too nervous to speak up about it himself.
‘There is something else, boss,’ I said. ‘I mean, it might be a stab in the dark, but…’
‘Before Borach killed himself, he mentioned to me and Ken that he’d thought he’d seen something… in the clouds.’
‘What do you mean?’ asked Prager.
‘He thought he’d seen something moving down there.’
‘I remember,’ said Doc Bargas suddenly. ‘He asked me if I thought something could be alive down there.’
‘And could something?’
‘In theory, yes, but it would have been picked up when they were surveying the planet.’
‘Right,’ said Singh. ‘And what you’re saying is, Proskurkin had seen something too?’
‘Yeah,’ said Yunus. ‘He did.’
‘… Right. Fuck.’
There was a silence.
‘Okay,’ Singh continued. ‘Has anyone else, uh… seen anything.’
Very slowly, a man at the back raised his hand. ‘I, uh, think I did.’
‘Okay, Nakao. Anyone else?’
‘Right, you can all go. Doc, Prager, Sant and Nakao, I need to talk to you.’
We waited for everyone else to file out.
‘I think some of them were lying,’ Doc Bargas said. Singh’s face twitched.
‘You can understand why,’ I told the physician.
He grunted in agreement, and turned to Nakao. ‘Genjo, have you had any suicidal thoughts recently?’
‘No, Doc, I swear.’
‘How long ago did you see it, whatever it was?’
‘A couple days. I’m certain it was something, not just a trick of the light. I saw a solid form. And there was this noise. It was… I guess it was like whale-song.’
‘Huh,’ I said. ‘Me and Ken de Groot heard something like that a while ago.’
‘I think I’ve heard it too,’ said Prager. ‘I assumed it was just machinery.’
‘Well,’ said Bargas. ‘I have no idea what we should do. I don’t think we’ve got enough evidence for the company to accept there’s any danger. I’m not fully sure I accept it myself.’
There was a pause.
‘I guess we have to wait for something to happen.’
Doc Bargas placed Nakao on a suicide watch, which Nakao seemed thankful for. He definitely didn’t want to die.
The day after Singh addressed the crew, a miner jumped. It was Woods, one of the ones Bargas had thought were hiding having seen anything. After Woods’ death, two more miners approached Bargas and admitted to having lied the day before.
Two days after that, Singh disappeared.
It took a while for anyone to notice, everyone simply assuming he was somewhere else on the platform, but after a quick scan of the platform it was clear there was now only 20 living people on board, all of whom were crew, four crewmembers registered deceased, and one crewmember unaccounted for: Foreman Singh.
‘Okay,’ Prager said once I arrived in the control room the next day. Bargas couldn’t come because he was still watching over the other three to have seen the thing below. ‘I’ve contacted the company, and they’re going to send people to investigate. Until then, we have to keep working – they were damn hard to convince. Also, I’ve been looking at Singh’s logs. Here are the ones that stand out.’
He turned the monitor to me.
FOREMAN’S LOG – CYCLE 3E012, ORBIT 0003 – EARTHDATE 03/08/2368
Two deaths in such a short space of time. Fuck, that’ll look bad on my record. If they really were both suicides, though, I might just get away with it.
Everyone still slightly on edge. Told Bargas, Prager, Sant to keep eyes out for anyone else thinking of jumping.
Thought I saw something while I was inspecting Extractor 01. Something in clouds. Probably trick of light. Looked pretty solid though. Could something live down there?
Fan jam on E02, sorted. One broken key on E01 coolant terminal keyboard, not yet replaced.
‘That’s when he saw it,’ Prager said. ‘Here’s the one from yesterday evening.’
FOREMAN’S LOG – CYCLE 3E143, ORBIT 0003 – EARTHDATE 15/08/2368
No major incidents. Bargas says men on suicide watch are still normal. I feel fine. Company finally coming round – four suicides too many to not be suspicious. Sant’s theory disputed – they say they would’ve picked up any life forms ages ago. I agree.
Broken microwave in Lounge 04, sorted. It screams. Mariani dropped a screwdriver over the side, accepts liability for costs.
‘Seems normal,’ I said.
‘Yeah,’ Prager replied. ‘Except that.’ He tapped the screen, and I read the sentence he pointed at: It screams.
‘Oh,’ I said. ‘What the fuck does that mean?’
‘I don’t know. I don’t think I want to.’
The next morning, I was doing my exercises in my quarters when Doc Bargas ran in in a panic, his nose bloody.
He’d gone into the med-bay at about 5 AM, to wake up his three wards – they were all on an early-morning shift – and found one of them missing. The other two men didn’t realise he’d gone. Bargas was embarrassed when he told me this – he had cameras on their room, and should have noticed one of them get up in the night and go outside. But he hadn’t – Dahan had killed himself. He was still talking to the other two when something seemed to come over them. Before he knew what was happening they made a break for the exit. Nakao managed to make it, and went over the side as well. Bargas grabbed the other, Vilmos, who managed to punch him in the nose but was held down by two other miners who’d heard the commotion and sedated. As soon as he’d been restrained, Bargas had run to wake Prager and myself.
This was it – a chance to find out what was going on.
Prager had called the company again, and they’d agreed that seven suicides probably meant there was some external factor causing them, and that the platform would be temporarily shut down. The shuttle to evacuate the remaining men would arrive that evening. In the meantime, we were going to talk to Vilmos.
He was frantically struggling against his restraints when I got there. It was quite terrifying – he was clearly insane. I don’t think anyone in their right mind could show such ferocity.
‘We tried asking him stuff,’ one of the two miners with him said. ‘He won’t say anything.’
Bargas sedated him again, and the struggling stopped.
‘Vilmos,’ said Prager. ‘What’s going on?’
Vilmos didn’t respond.
‘Why do you want to kill yourself?’
Vilmos opened his mouth. ‘… I don’t.’
‘What? What do you mean?’
He didn’t respond. Prager shook his head.
‘Do you know who you are?’ asked Bargas.
‘What’s your name?’
‘Where are we?’
‘Benten, we call it.’
‘What do you mean, ‘we call it’?’
‘Benten is not its name.’
‘What is its name?’
‘It hasn’t got one.’
‘… Okay.’ Bargas looked at me. Apparently it was my turn to try and get some sense out of him.
‘Alright, Vilmos,’ I said. ‘In his log, right before he jumped, Singh said something about it screaming. What…?’
‘It does!’ shouted Vilmos, interrupting me. ‘It screams!’
He looked at me, but did not answer.
‘What does it scream about?’
He didn’t answer.
‘Why do you want to kill yourself?’
‘I told you, I don’t.’
‘Well, how come you want to jump over the side then?’
Vilmos sighed. ‘How come you don’t?’
That was it. He stopped speaking altogether after that. I don’t know what happened to him – they put him in a separate compartment on the shuttle, and when Prager last emailed me he said he couldn’t find any information on a Rajmund Vilmos anywhere after that day. As the shuttle pulled away, I breathed a sigh of relief, and looked at the disappearing form of the platform. Without thinking, I looked down at the clouds. There was something moving down there.
I still don’t know what happened on Benten. Prager emails me a lot – him, Doc Bargas, Ken de Groot and one or two of the surviving miners are still trying to find out what happened there, but getting nowhere. Apparently every other platform on the planet was shut down about a year later, and Benten was declared a no-fly zone. I don’t know why. I don’t know what happened.
But that’s why I’m never going into space again. There are too many unknowns. Some people like that – I once did, back in the days when they were constantly discovering these new, incredible things: I remember the pictures of planets made of diamond, planets with seas of liquid metal, and other astonishing, unbelievable things. There was a real beauty to the universe, and that’s what people think of nowadays when they think of space travel.
But there are other things, the things that can’t be explained. There’s reportedly a system on the outer edge of Chinese space which no ship has ever returned from. There’s a planet in Orion’s Belt where the colony had to be abandoned after consistent reports of “whispering” in the night, and poltergeist-like occurrences. And then there’s a planet named Benten, where seven men jumped to their deaths after seeing something in the clouds.
These things terrify me more than you can imagine.
Credit To – George Sherlaw
“Take off the blindfolds,” they said as I started to gain consciousness once again. When they took it off, I shielded my eyes for a second to keep the blinding light out of my eyes. Once my eyes adjusted, I looked around to figure out what was going on. I looked at myself to see that I was kneeling on the ground—very sandy ground at that—and stood up to get a better look at the area.
After wiping the sand off of my shorts, I looked around to see that I was on a very small and sandy island with eleven of us altogether (including me). Six of them were like me, confused and just standing up. The other four watched us get up, all of them armed with baseball bats and one of them with a bandana covering his mouth. The strangest thing about the place, however, was that the island appeared to be surrounded by some kind of polluted water, as it was a shade of light black; maybe an oil spill or something?
“Oh no,” one of the others exclaimed to no one in particular, “no, I already did this once, and I am NOT doing this again!” With that, he charged towards the armed guy with the bandana, who simply took three steps out of the way, causing the man to end up tackling an armed guy behind him, sending them both in the water. I expected a splash and instinctively covered my face to avoid the dirty water from getting all over it, except there wasn’t a splash. I glanced back just in time to see their feet drop down into the “water”. I walked over and peeked over the edge carefully to see both of them silently falling and falling and falling and falling until no one could see them anymore.
The guy in the bandana, who was over glancing over the edge at this point, swore to himself—presumably from the loss of one of his few men and one of his prisoners.
“What the…?” one of the other prisoners asked. At this point all of the other prisoners, except for me, were looking around in hopes of an answer from one of the three other captors, who, as you would expect, were a bit more alert this time.
“Well, that isn’t exactly how I wanted this introduction to go, but I guess we’ll just have to live with it.” The man in the bandana said, still glancing over the edge. I felt like pushing him down there with the other two, but for some reason part of me said to stay and listen to what he had to say.
“Welcome, gentlemen, to The Void. Now you probably have many questions right now, but I am afraid that I will not be able to answer any until you do a small favor for my friends and I here. If you would please look behind yourselves.”
All five of us turned our heads to see the impossible; there were objects just floating in the middle of the air. Planks of wood, blocks of concrete, boulders, and many other solid objects were suspended in the air. They all seemed to be lined up in a way, and they all slowly ascended upwards. It was like a bridge or a path that had a lot of gaps, and was made of many different materials. At the zenith of this path was some strange, orange crystal that shined in the sunlight.
“That orange crystal that you see is called a Void Crystal. As you can see here, the path to it is very dangerous. That is why we gathered you five here; we wish for you to jump and climb the objects and obtain that crystal for us. If you can do this successfully, then we shall return you to your home. You will never have to deal with us ever again.”
That last part didn’t seem very truthful to me, considering how that guy exclaimed how he already did this once before and then proceeded to tackle one of the armed guys into The Void with him.
“What if we fall into this…Void thing? What happens to us if we fall down there, like those two other guys?” one of the younger prisoners asked.
“Well,” the bandana man said, “We don’t know exactly what happens. We can confirm that you don’t die, as you literally can’t die from falling, and we’ve found out that your senses start to numb as you fall. We presume that you fall forever, but we can’t be entirely sure at this point.”
That answer surprised me. I figured that if you fell, you would die of falling or, if not falling, starvation or something. They made it sound like you actually go somewhere once you fall far enough. Even so, he made it clear that you don’t want to fall.
“You there,” the bandana guy said, pointing to a young boy next to me, “you go first. We’ve watched you jump from rooftop to rooftop in your hometown; this shouldn’t be much different than that.”
I watched as the boy, who looked to be about fifteen, slowly get up and walk over to the edge of the island where the path started. He took a deep breath, let it out, and then leaped towards the first object. He managed to grab a hold of the debris, but he had a hard time getting himself on top of it. Eventually he scaled it and leapt to another piece, landing on top of it. On the third jump, however, he tripped on his last step and fell. I heard him scream for a few seconds before it was abruptly cut off, renewing the silence that had remained before.
“This is messed up,” an older prisoner declared, “you just made that kid kill himself! I am not going to do the same.” With that, he went over to one of the armed guys and punched him in the lower jaw. The armed guy quickly swung his bat several times and beat down the man. A few seconds ago, the man was standing up just fine. Now he was on the ground being beat down mercilessly by a guy with a baseball bat.
The armed guy stopped after a bit, leaving the prisoner to curl up in pain on the sandy ground of the floating island. After that, the man in the bandana walked over, picked up the prisoner, and threw him into The Void. He turned around and looked at all of our faces, which were now filled with fear and panic.
“Alright, let’s see…who should go next…” he said, walking in front of each of us. “Eany, meany, miney, mo. Catch a tiger by the toe. If it hollers let it go. Eany, meany, miney…” His finger was pointed at me with the last word coming out of his mouth. “Mo. You can go next.”
I gulped and felt a part of me die. Reluctantly, I walked over to the start of the path and looked at all of the floating debris. I had past experience of stuff like this, but I haven’t done it for a good three years ever since I broke my leg doing it. My leg was healed now, but I knew that I was still rusty on my skills. Nevertheless, I took a few steps back and sprinted forward.
I leapt forward and landed on the wood plank. I looked over to a block of concrete to my right that looked like it had been ripped out of a sidewalk. I jumped and managed to grip onto an end of it. I began pulling myself up, which turned out to be quite an effort considering that there was nothing on top of the concrete block to grip onto. It took me a few minutes, but I finally managed to get myself up onto the block.
I looked towards the Void Crystal, glowing brighter as I ventured closer towards it, and saw it was only four things of debris away. This was where the young boy had failed, however, and I was fearful that I would suffer from the same fate. I took a breath and looked at the next floating object. It appeared to be a metal door, but it was tilted at a seventy-five degree angle. I would have to grab onto the top of the door to prevent myself from sliding down it and straight into The Void.
I took two steps back, ran forward, and jumped right at the edge. I landed but instantly started sliding down the door as I failed to grip onto the top. In a panic I tried reaching up to get a grip even though I knew it was pointless. Half of my body was already off of the door when I realized, in that split-second, that I could grip the doorknob. I got one hand on the knob and held on for dear life. A few seconds later, I had most of my body dangling off of the door, my arm feeling like it was being torn as it was the only thing holding my whole body weight.
Quickly I got my other hand the door knob. And there I was, both hands gripping onto the door knob and me just dangling there, unable to get a better grip then the one that I had right now. I was stuck. There was no visible way for me to get a grip on the top of the door from here without getting myself killed.
Behind me I heard a commotion going on; I tilted my head back towards the island to see what was happening. The three prisoners were trying to fight the two armed guys while the man in the bandana simply watched it go down. From what I saw, it seemed like the prisoners were losing and would probably be thrown into The Void. Nobody would be getting the crystal. At least no one in our group.
Knowing there was no hope for me, and that I was just stalling the inevitable, I let go of my grip on the door and accepted my fate. Once I was in The Void, everything around me just turned black and all other things disappeared. Just pure blackness. I couldn’t even see my own hands when I held them out in front of me. After a few minutes in The Void, I didn’t even feel like I was falling anymore. Just kind of floating. Suspended in nothingness. Slowly, I realized that I was losing my senses: I couldn’t see, I wasn’t hearing anything, I didn’t feel the wind on my back from falling anymore. I had lost complete touch with the world.
Eventually I started feeling lightheaded, and very tired. I closed my eyes—or at least I think I did, as I couldn’t feel or see anything—and started drifting off into sleep. At least I would be sleeping my way to death.
“Take off the blindfolds,” they said as I started to gain consciousness once again. When they took it off, I shielded my eyes for a second to keep the blinding light out of my eyes. Once my eyes adjusted, I looked around to figure out what was going on. I looked at myself to see that I was on the ground—very sandy ground at that—and stood up to get a better look at the area.
Credit To – Mister Sister
Farm work was foreign to me, but I needed the money. I was having trouble finding a job since the move to Georgia, and a friend of a friend had mentioned an old estate in the country run by some old woman that their aunt knew. A few strings were pulled and I was to help the old woman with any work that was needed. After working mostly clerical office jobs in the North, I must concede that I did have a slight aversion to outdoor labor, and Georgia in the summer didn’t quell this aversion; it was brutally hot, and the air and plants were teeming with insects.
The night before my first day, I received a call from the friend of a friend’s aunt, with whom I had never spoken. She was pleasant enough on the phone, but did mention that the old farm woman had been acting peculiar in the last few weeks. She attributed the behaviour to old age and only mentioned it so that I wouldn’t be disconcerted upon meeting the old woman. The call seemed out of place to me as I had never spoken to this lady; was the old woman so far gone as to require prior warning?
When I arrived at the farm it was apparent that little care went into upkeep, and, by my estimation, the grass and weeds were overgrown by weeks. I poked into the dusty garage area and was startled by an old woman standing at the rear of the room. She was obviously waiting for me, and my entrance triggered a sort of slow, shambling gait toward me. As she grew closer, I noticed a marbled, mossy glaze over her eyes. I voiced a greeting that went unreturned.
The woman spoke very little, but when she instructed me to pick figs for her, she spoke as if she was uncomfortable with her own vocal ability, and her volume and tone wavered inconsistently. This was odd, I thought, but was reminded of the phone call from the previous night.
I had never picked figs before, and the woman silently showed me how to pick the ripened ones from the bushy,dome shaped tree. She left me to tend to other farm matters, and I was alone, picking figs in the blistering heat; a bucket in my left hand, and a straw hat on my head to keep some of the sun at bay.
My right hand reached in between large leaves and pinched figs by the stem. The very ripe ones would come detached with ease while the lesser took more twisting and turning to snap off. There was no way to pick these without having your body and face inches from leaves and branches. More often than not, the figs would bleed a sticky, milky liquid from their stem which would ooze onto my fingers. It was beginning to attract different kinds of flies to my skin. That, combined with the noisy crickets and hoppers was enough to drive anyone mad. The alternating stutter of their screeching wings was so obvious, and when you’re alone, it can drown out your thoughts.
My left arm grew tired of holding the bucket as it filled with plump figs. The sun penetrated my thin cotton shirt, and I could feel sweat beads running down my back and legs. I could lick my lips and taste salt on my mustache. Sweat beads are indistinguishable from the light tickle an insect creates when it scurries up your limbs. How could I know whether or not a fire ant, or spider wasn’t there? I found it best to swat at every tingle.
Despite the annoying bugs, I continued to pick figs, but my bucket didn’t seem to be filling, and the minutes passed like days; slow and methodical. I wasn’t sure if the heat was making me delirious, or if I was just tired of picking figs, but I began to feel uneasy, and unstable. The world behind me fizzled,and I felt like the fig tree, the bugs, and I, were the only creatures to exist. Each fig, bleeding its milk onto my fingers as I picked it, and each branch, shuddering in pain and with rancor when it lost its fig. That’s impossible, I thought, the tree cannot feel when a fig has been severed and stolen from it.
The inferno in the sky baked my arms and neck. My thoughts wandered as I watched my forearms cook in the sun. My face contorted reflexively to a little green fly biting my other hand. I slapped my hand but the fly escaped. I was not sure how long I had been standing, staring at my arm, but I turned my head to look for the next cluster of figs to pick. The inside of the tree’s dome was dark. Somehow the blinding sunlight didn’t penetrate the canopy. The crickets and grasshoppers were still screaming; screaming for what? Why were they always screaming? For moments I felt as though I was being screamed at; a portentous wail. Little tiny legs and bodies would unnervingly scuttle past my peripheral vision when I tried to focus.
I turned around to gain some perspective, but the sun stabbed my eyes and forced me to shield them until I felt a prick on my ankle. I slapped the spot on my leg, and lifted my pants but did not see a culprit. As I squatted, bent over, I slowly lifted my gaze to the fig tree. Inches from my face, in between two leaves and on a branch, was an arachnid: Opiliones, the daddy longlegs. It sat facing me, and I gazed for what seemed like minutes. What is it doing? Why is it sitting so still in the same spot? I studied it, the way it suspended from those hair-thin legs.; It’s body, a small control room for the entire entity. What an odd creature, I thought, until I caught glimpse of its eyes; pitch black, unmoving, and unwavering onyx. Were those black beads looking back at me? That isn’t that ridiculous, I thought. It would be an evolutionary blunder for a creature so small to not recognize possible large, predatory mammals. But the way it stared back at me made me feel uneasy. It’s just a spider, I reasoned, it doesn’t have a consciousness, though I felt insignificant comparatively. I am six feet tall and you are mere inches, I thought, attempting to express my dominance telepathically. My confidence was a facade, though, and the spider saw through me. Every twitch in my face, every micro-expression I expressed, the spider recorded and noted. I am imperfect. I am faltering and insecure. The spider watches me with supremacy, and assuredness: an abettor for the tree.
I tried to stand and focus on the task at hand, picking figs. My eyes shifted at every scurry in my periphery. My legs felt sore, and my heart raced. I Approached the back side of the fig tree which was hidden in the shade of a large maple, but I felt little relief from the sun. Each little green fly, like a tiny hypodermic needle, sucking blood at my expense.
I hadn’t noticed until this moment, but the leaves of the fig tree all appeared to be facing me, like one of those paintings with the eyes that follow your every move. Why was it so dark inside the dome? The leaves were menacing sentinels. Cosmic, judgmental extremities analyzing my being; tallying up the number of fruits I have stolen without asking. I don’t need permission, I contemplated; man is ruler of this world. You will make more figs in a weeks time, and be plentiful throughout your life, fig tree. As the thought crossed my mind, a large june bug dinged against my forehead and startled me. The crickets were now a deafening howl; a siren, calling to lost sailors.
I heard a rustling shuffle in the grass and turned to see the old woman, roughly ten meters away, dragging her feet and making her way toward the house. Her hands and face were muddy, and she seemed to smile at me as she passed by. But something about her smile had an ulterior expression. Her eyes… Her mouth smiled, but her eyes bore through me; examining. What was I thinking – It seemed like an ordinary, polite smile from an, albeit, senile old woman. But why was it so unnerving?
The moment was short lived when I was forced to switch my sight to my left shoulder: a small green fly, biting me. It was biting my shoulder and staring into my eyes when I turned. I pinched the fly and flicked my fingers to dispatch it; its life taken in milliseconds. The screeching crickets and grasshoppers increased in decibels to become an unbearable shrill, as though metal forks were dragged along porcelain china. I slowly turned my head toward the inside of the tree.
Darkness loomed inside the dome; a black abyss. My ears rang with the cacophonous insect symphony. I dared not blink. The tree knew… It knew me. It wasn’t just the tree; it was all plant life. The tree spoke for all vegetation. They fought and clawed upward toward the sun. their purpose was war and survival, and their means were any. In my mind, I pleaded: it’s just figs… Only food for us… I haven’t violated you.
My peripheral vision caught an unsightly horror. I turned my head and met the gaze of a spider. This couldn’t be the same spider, I thought, I was on the other side of the tree. It’s legs were perched on an emerald leaf. My eyes could not move. I could not look away. It stared into my pupils. The ancient wisdom of a thousand Gods watched me through its eyes like a hunter sees an unsuspecting doe through their scope. I scratched and raked at my oppressively itchy arms. The heat made my sweaty skin sticky and irritated, but I dared not oppose the spider. The fig tree commanded the flies to bite my skin. The spider was its rifle scope. The tree was choreographing the entire dark dance. I am the spider. I am the tree. I am nothing. This is dread and terror. Its figs are precious seed, and I am a villain.
My mind spun and spun, and my eyes fixated. My entire body felt a pressure building; heat and pressure like a thick boiling ooze filling the inside of my abdomen and flowing through my veins until my brain eventually pops. The spider watched, and surveyed. I am imperfect. I am insecure.
Spiraling conical darkness eroded my vision until it burst into a watery, fish-eyed perception. I felt inhuman.
I was paralyzed by what I saw thereafter. My legs quivered; all of them. I was looking at a thin man. A mustachioed man wearing a straw hat, with what can only be described as evil in his eyes, glared at me. I was looking at myself! What am I standing on? The ground felt too lofty, like a green ribbon attached to a post. All of my legs scrambled and my body bobbed, like a fig on a thin branch. How is this possible? I am the spider. A twisted grin on the man’s unblinking face appeared and his hand reached out toward me. I tried to run, but my eight limbs were clumsy, and I was petrified by what I saw; the man’s eyes had the same mossy glaze the old woman’s had. His fingers pressed on my entire body until I felt different again.
I can’t really describe what I saw next, because it isn’t that I saw, in the traditional sense of vision via eyeballs. But I perceived a marbling swirl of light. I could feel the air, as if a chain link fence could feel a light breeze gently push through it. I could not move; my body felt composed of stone… or wood. I could feel them all over me; the insects.
My God, I thought, I’ve become the tree.
The hordes of insects were Crawling, squirming, and tickling my extremities; making homes in my nooks and crannies, and slithering around my roots. How is this possible, I cried; how have we switched places? What kind of dark magic did this tree harness? I felt my figs being forcibly removed by something; like having a bandaid or cuticle slowly ripped off. I lamented, what kind of twisted justice is this? My branches bled. This is the waking nightmare; the verdant wraith.
Credit To – SnakesAgain